Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Evolution of Creationism?

A recent On the Media episode explored the way in which evolution is discussed in Texas science textbooks. (Since Texas is the largest purchaser of textbooks, their decisions impact textbook writing for the nation). The state once required creationism to be taught alongside evolution as "competing theories." Part of the problem is the word theory, which in some cases connotes speculation or suspicion. To scientists, however, the word means a unifying explanation of a range of phenomena that is testable and verifiable. By this standard, creationism and evolution are not competing theories; only evolution offers empirical data.

But, since it's hard to find a scientist of any repute to endorse creationism or to challenge evolution, the position of the religious right has "evolved" into a more insidious challenge. Textbooks now insist that all terms -- including, perhaps especially, evolution -- are to be examined for their advantages and disadvantages. This is the ultimate aim of the relativist: to see all knowledge as flawed resists the idea that some knowledge is more valid than others.

Are we to treat genocide, for example, as a "theory" in deference to deniers?

What of the man-made environmental catastrophes we currently face?

What of politicians caught in scandals who say, "Am I perfect? No." Aren't they hiding behind the idea that everyone is flawed, so we can never really judge anyone's actions?

Where else do you see the fight over truth being waged?

Monday, April 06, 2009

Flag-Draped Coffins

The Obama administration has lifted an 18 year old ban on photographs of the flag-draped coffins of returning servicemen. The issue has been fought on personal and political grounds. Supporters of the ban say the pictures can weaken morale and are an intrusion on family privacy. Critics of the ban say the photographs are covered by first Amendment rights, and that they offer a glimpse of the human toll war exacts. Furthermore, they note, family members of the deceased must agree to the photos before they can be taken. (For a closer look at the issue, click on the title of this post and check out the attached article in the New York Times).

Where do you stand on this issue?